A Literal Black Eye On Our Sport

It took decades for motorcycling to overcome the negative perception of the lifestyle that was prevalent in the 1950s. So much of that perception was unfairly created in entertainment and the media. Movies that portrayed motorcyclists as roving gangs of thugs and staged magazine photographs of drunken, antisocial bikers put a lasting, negative patina on the activity that we love and share.

Now, decades later, we are seeing a new wave of damage being done to the public view of our sport. However, this time the media that is spreading the perception is of the social variety and, in the words of Commodore Perry, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” This is not fake news. This is a black eye being inflicted on our sport by a very small, but very visible moto-subculture.

You have likely seen the news reports of bands of thugs on unlicensed dirt bikes, ATVs and sport bikes terrorizing the streets of New York and, most recently, the freeways of California. The gangs do wheelies, burn outs and engage in highly dangerous stunts on busy streets and freeways. Traffic is often brought to a complete halt during the “performances.” When an unfortunate motorist draws the ire of the motorized gang, the retribution is quick and violent.

Clearly, when this anarchist behavior is filmed and shown in all of its sensationalistic glory on the evening news, our sport suffers indelible damage. The images of helmets used to break auto glass, motorists being dragged out of their vehicles and bikes being used as weapons are more than disturbing. They are a sad chronicle on the state of our society and the motorcycle is becoming a symbol of the degradation.

Sadly, law enforcement can do little to catch the perpetrators of the mayhem and violence. Helmeted pirates on unlicensed bikes are hard, if not impossible, to identify and track down. Catching the fleeing and fragmented gang is like trying to catch cockroaches before they disappear under floorboards.

Unfortunately, we responsible motorcyclists can seemingly do nothing to curb the behavior of the small but very visible dark side of our sport. We are helpless to stop the lawlessness. However, we can continue to counteract the negative perception the thugs are creating with their despicable actions with positive actions of our own. The scientific maxim “every action has an equal and opposite reaction” may be the best thing we can do. Safety, courtesy and respect for other motorists will not make the evening news, but it can help to change perceptions one driver at a time.

24 COMMENTS

  1. As a rider of almost 45 years, I agree – I think. But, the trouble seems to be that, to a lot of people, black eyes are a badge of honor. Let’s face it, it’s more than tempting to use Ba-ba-ba-bad as a marketing tool. From “Jack Daniel’s Indian Chieftain” to almost every brand calling select bikes “street-fighters” it ain’t just the 1%ers, squids or the wannabes that make motorcycles problematic. From where I sit, the indicator of a wonky biker doesn’t just reside with “the small but very visible dark side of our sport” – they’re fairly ubiquitous: loud pipes, dressing like a pirate, shunning ATGATT, using the public roads like private tracks, and farting at stop signs. Okay, the last one we can all agree with, but I’m sure you see my point. Safety, courtesy and respect for other motorists will go a long way, but there are other variables in play that make motorcycles appear threatening, even if they’re not.

    • I’m in agreement with everything you say, however there is a difference between full ATGATT and squid wear. Jeans aren’t really ATGATT, nor are non armored leather jackets (also usually very thin leather) or leather work boots without bike specific ankle and crush protection, however all these “not really ATGATT” items present an image to the public that show much more common sense than flip-flops, shorts and a “wife beater” shirt or a vest.
      Loud pipes, especially when “flaunted” with unnecessary heavy throttle and trying to impress oneself at stop signs does nothing to improve the image of bikers any more than the groups of ATV and dirt bike riders raising heck on the streets.

  2. You nailed the problem we are faced with. I have had some people on motorcycles who cut right into our group of riders.They laughed and thought it was a joke.Lucky no one was hurt. I don’t get what makes some people tick.

  3. This is just like the civil protest marches for and against issues like Roe vs. Wade that are infiltrated by a few masked anarchist’s who turn violent smashing windows and setting fires, etc., the few degrading the many.

  4. I disagree completely:

    We CAN do something:

    If you are a rider, and you know that one of these illegal rides is going to take place, or you see one, CALL THE POLICE AND REPORT IT!

    If you see dirt bikes (not dual-sports) and ATVs or other unlicensed motorcycles on the street, CALL THE POLICE AND REPORT IT!

  5. I agree that jerks who ride are still jerks. They harm the reputation of everyone.

    BTW, I think the Perry quote is a bit out of place. He said “We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.” By ours, he meant they had captured the ships. The better quote is from the comic strip Pogo, which paraphrased Perry and said “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

    • Thank you Jeff! That quote has been mis-used so many times in so many places. You are 100% correct, the comic strip “Pogo” quote should have been used, not Perrys’.

  6. Darwinian theory usually catches up with these asshats. I agree with TPB. If you see or know about these types of riders, turn them in.

  7. The incidents I’ve seen in New York and also on the YouTube vids with the gangs of dirt bikes & quads are exclusively perpetrated by youthful blacks who go out of their way to flaunt authority and disrespect police. This is typical behavior for these ghetto nightcrawlers and unfortunately we motorcyclists as a whole are damaged. I personally believe that the police need to simply mow them down with their squad cars when they menace the public and refuse to stop or elude arrest. It is also common practice for ghetto punks to intentionally slam their stolen cars head-on into the police car before running away from the scene.

      • @ Peter,

        I fully agree with you!

        Admins, any chance of removing that bigoted post before our reputation in further sullied?

        • Done! We also opted not to approve his post in response to Peter, which unfortunately exhibited more disrespectful language. We welcome varying opinions and civil discussion–which may or may not become a little heated at times–but insist it stay respectful.

          • Jenny, please note that the headline itself invites a racist interpretation. Given that the article is not about people getting black eyes from being punched in the face, the remaining way to read “literal black eye” is the eye of a black person. I’ve seen white and multi-enthnic squid groups as well, so this is not limited to a black-people problem.

    • ‘Mow them down’? Really? That’s your solution? I’m pretty sure that’s murder. Look, I live in Baltimore City, where the ’12 O’clock boys’ were a real problem that we put up with for a long time. It was probably worse here than in any other city in the nation. The police and community largely turned a blind eye for years until the matter hit a critical mass. Here’s what made the change- the community. When you saw them being parked, you called the police, who finally decided to respond. I literally called 911 for three years about two specific addresses in my neighborhood where stolen bikes were being stored before they finally decided to act. In one day, I was personally responsible for seven stolen bikes being recovered. (Four street bikes and three dirt bikes) The only way is to report this activity at the source and demand that the authorities respond. Yeah, everyone in Baltimore knows that the vast majority of these riders are young black men. But when you make that the crux of your argument, and suggest that the police should ‘mow them down’, you are clearly a racist. You may not understand how and why that invalidates any point you are trying to make, but it does. Look, I’ve had these jackasses damage my property, dent my truck, and steal and trash my motorcycle for having the gall to report them to the cops, in addition to turning my block into a screaming full-throttle noise nightmare. So I have more reason to be angry than anyone. But when you make it about race, you not only invalidate your own point, you cast shade on the rest of us, just like these jaggoffs cast shade on the cycling community.

  8. In regard to widespread promulgation of hoodlum video by the evening “News”, I have chastised my local station, to no avail, for broadcasting images of vandalism and graffiti.

    C’mom, I know their business is all about attracting eyeballs and maintaining our attention till the next commercial, but they have to realize that somewhere on a couch, lowlifes are high-fiving and conspiring ways to top their latest effort.

    We can do something!

    Call your station manager, or better yet, encourage local MC organizations that give a darn, make the call.

    And YouTube, have you no shame?

    A final thought, I’m currently waging a seemingly one person crusade (and I think the one person part is why I’m having little success) to demand our Sheriff enforce our community’s regulations on mufflers. It is currently his opinion the presence of any muffler meets the letter of the law, and as a Harley rider himself, is ignoring the “loud pipes save lives” crowd.

  9. Good Day All
    I ride in Canada.
    We have our share of the riders described in the article.
    I have a short name for them: F.O.D’s
    Future Organ Donors.

  10. I was at a demo ride for the new Indian motorcycles and noticed one of our local police in his uniform and police vehicle. I introduced myself and asked him why the police allow the loud exhaust in our area and what they do about it. He said in these words” I couldn’t F***ING care less, and went on in this tone with this “word” being used many times more before I just walked away. I was not forceful with my question or in a manner as to insult. So much for setting a good impression or leading by example this officer was way out of line. As for me when people compliment my nice looking VTX, I always tell them the best feature of my motorcycle is it’s quiet (stock) exhaust system.

  11. With the above mentioned vids on line in mind, please think about trip vids that you post. If you want to post a trip report type video please keep in mind that we can all wheelie and roost etc. We really don’t need to see you do it, and we don’t need to give the anti’s any ammo. If you post a vid and show someone popping a wheelie on the street (or anywhere for no reason) you put all dual sport and ADV bikes in the above mentioned class. Also try not to show big roosts going up some grade, or smoking along at twice the speed limit raising a huge trail of dust, for the same reasons. Try and make the vids about the trip not a “look at me!” squid vid. Actually all things considered, if you don’t want land closures you need to make vids more like a “Leave No Trace” video than the afore mentioned squid vid. If we want people to think that we are responsible we have to ,show that we are responsible.

    I’m not telling you how to ride, I’m just suggesting how to post.

  12. I’ve invited the local sheriff to use my country barn to hide behind as he attempts to track down our local rocket racer -as he hits 100 + mph on our road…..about the same time the school buss off-loads the kids. Perhaps a biker’s version of “see something-say something”.

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